“Character…where are the honorable people?”
Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
Character is the word used to describe the personal qualities of an individual. The qualities in view concern a person’s morals and ethics. The issue of character was recently framed in another way. Justice Clarence Thomas in a recent lecture, asked, “Where are the honorable men?” He was reflecting on our government and our cultural decline.
God revealed the standard measure of character, what we might call “honorable.” The Bible provides the true definition of character. The Old Testament contains the history of men of character. The Bible also contains narratives concerning men of weak and deceptive character.
Joseph and Moses are good examples of men of godly character. As you read their stories, the first thing that should come to mind is that these men are not perfect. The Bible does not fail to describe their faults as well as their virtues.
Genesis 39 is a part of Joseph’s life that reveals his godly character. We are told that Joseph became a successful man. He was put in charge of the household of an officer of the Pharaoh. We read that the LORD was with Joseph. Joseph had an ongoing relationship with the LORD. As a child, Joseph thought he was of special privilege. As you may recall, his superior attitude angered his brothers to such a degree that they plotted to kill him but ended up selling him as a slave.
Years later, Joseph continued to walk with the LORD. He became very successful. His character was tested at this very comfortable point in his life. The beautiful wife of the officer who entrusted his household to Joseph sought to seduce him. Joseph resisted. Moses recorded what he said. “… “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge… How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”’ Genesis 39:8ff
Even this strong statement did not dissuade the officer’s wife. She persisted and the Bible records Joseph’s action as fleeing from her presence leaving his garment that she grabbed in her hand. The officer’s wife wrongly accused Joseph and her testimony was believed. Her husband put Joseph, the innocent one, in the king’s prison.
The rest of the story confirms the depth of Joseph’s character. He spent his life trusting in the Lord and pursuing godliness. Joseph’s life was a foreshadowing of Christ’s perfect life which is the standard of perfect character. Jesus said of Himself, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
In order to express the kind of character that Joseph did, one must be humble. Humility is a virtue which enables the one who has it to rightly assess himself before God. Jesus said that He was gentle and lowly in heart. The word from which both gentle and lowly are derived can also be translated as humble.
The Apostle Paul wrote of Jesus’ humility in Philippians 2:6. “Though He was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Jesus set aside His glory. His humility extended to obeying the Father even to death upon the cross.
The human author of the story of Joseph was himself a humble man. Moses wrote, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Numbers 12:3 The Spirit of God inspired Moses to write these words about himself when his leadership was challenged by two people who were the closest to him.
Like Joseph, Moses’ life demonstrated his trust in the LORD. When Moses sinned and God forbade him to enter the Promised Land, he endured the consequence of his sin and continued to obey God.
Character is the measure of a man or a woman. Behavior reveals character and it matters profoundly. Men and women of character are humble and can be trusted. Their character is seen over time. These are the honorable people!
Through viewing a person’s character whether it is good or evil, future actions can be anticipated. We are all sinners in the sight of God. Yet we must make decisions concerning those whom we choose to entrust with various roles in life. Choose wisely. Choose men and women of character. Choose honorable people.